by Payne Schanski
Site Director, Tennis Coordinator, Curley K-8 School, Jamaica Plain 

Day 0 – March 16

On the final day of Tenacity programming before the governor issued a stay-at-home order, our team at the Curley tried to get out ahead of the game. We sent each of our middle school kids home with a racket and tennis balls. That was simple enough, and nearly every 6th grader jumped at the chance to take a racket home.

From there, I suspected that the bigger challenge would be giving these kids activities and drills to do while at home. For certain students, all they need is gear and their imaginations take care of the rest. For others, if there’s not something specific that’s interesting and simple to follow, those rackets could become just an extra decoration on the bedroom floor.

My thought was that if we were going to be separated for at least six weeks, I still wanted to coach from home in some capacity. If I were a middle school student, what would be the best way to ensure that I stay active, and had no excuse to stop exercising? My answer: engaging tennis-related activities picked specifically for kids who are stuck by themselves without access to equipment beyond that racket and a few balls.

Day 3 – March 18

I thought my days on social media were behind me, but desperate times call for desperate coaching. Hopefully we can get back to regular practices as soon as possible, with group rallies, in-the-moment tips, point play, team challenges, matches with other schools, and all the energy that goes along with building a team throughout the school year. Until then, Solo Tennis on Instagram (@cp_solotennis) will have to be the next best thing.

First I had to define what Solo Tennis means to a Tenacity middle schooler. I had to make up lessons that were unique, engaging and could be done alone. The biggest lesson that I learned while shooting the first of three Solo Tennis videos: it takes me as long to make a one-minute video as it does to coach a three-hour practice! Since the exercises are meant to be done alone, keeping all the visuals and instructions as short and straightforward as possible is important for the finished videos to be helpful. Keeping it simple, however, is more complicated than it looks. 

We had a Tenacity department meeting via Zoom with 18 people, looking like a few extra sets of cousins were invited over for the opening credits of “The Brady Bunch.” I give Marcela, our senior pathway director, a lot of credit for seamlessly orchestrating all the talking heads on that screen. I can’t wait until there are 45 of us online for the next all-staff meeting.